Satellite Images Show China's J-20 Stealth Fighters Near Indian Border in Sikkim


Satellite Images Show China's J-20 Stealth Fighters Near Indian Border in Sikkim

Satellite images taken on May 27 reveal that China has stationed its advanced J-20 stealth fighter jets less than 150 kilometers from India's boundary in Sikkim. The images, provided by All Source Analysis, show six J-20 fighters at a dual-use military and civilian airport in Shigatse, Tibet.

This airport, at an altitude of 12,408 feet, is among the world's highest. Also visible in the images is a KJ-500 Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft, according to a news agency report on May 30.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is aware of the J-20 deployment but has chosen not to comment. "The J-20 stealth fighter is China's most advanced operational fighter aircraft to date," said a VP for Technology and Analysis at All Source Analysis in a news report.

The deployment at Shigatse is notable as these aircraft are typically based in China's eastern provinces. India counters the J-20 with its fleet of 36 French-built Rafale fighters. Currently, eight Rafales are participating in advanced air combat exercises with the US Air Force in Alaska.

Shigatse, where the Chinese J-20s are stationed, is less than 290 kilometers from Hasimara in West Bengal, where India bases its second squadron of 16 Rafales. This is not the first time the J-20 has been observed in Tibet.

The jets were seen in Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture between 2020 and 2023. However, this latest sighting represents the largest deployment of J-20s captured by commercial satellite imagery. Introduced in 2017, the Chengdu J-20, or Mighty Dragon, is equipped with advanced sensors and China's most sophisticated air-to-air missiles, such as the PL-15, capable of striking targets up to 300 km away.

"China has steadily built up its air power capacity in Tibet and other areas near India over the past five years," says Sim Tack. This build-up includes new air bases and upgraded infrastructure. China has also deployed aircraft like the J-20 and H-6 nuclear-capable bombers to these regions on a temporary basis.

India has responded by significantly upgrading its airbases, including adding hardened shelters and deploying the Russian-built S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile system. The S-400, capable of tracking stealth platforms, aims to deter Chinese fighter sweeps along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

(Courtesy: Defence.Capital)

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